I found it the day I proposed.
The weather was immaculate; the air warm and inviting, and the ocean breeze just strong enough to be refreshing but not chilly. She has no idea I am about ask her the most important question of my life. We are surrounded by our dearest friends, and everyone is in extraordinary good-cheer, and doing a marvelous job of keeping up the charade of simply being on a meaningless yet scenic group picnic. There is a lull in the conversation.
Her attention shifts away from me for just a moment. The sun catches her hair. This is it. My heart races. I get down on one knee and remove the small velvet box I have been hiding in my sock all day. Everyone else simultaneously pulls out their phones and point them at her. At us. She turns back around. I pop open the box and catch the look in her eyes as she realizes what is happening. I try to push the words I have been practicing in my mind for months through the biggest grin that has ever graced my smug face.
Suddenly, before I can get a single word out, a seagull swoops down out of nowhere and snatches the ring from my hand. In complete shock and utter disbelief, I swing wildly at the bird-devil and luckily catch it by the foot. In a flurry of feathers and screams I wrestle the flapping mess back to earth. Driven by sheer adrenaline I try to pry the ring from the beast’s beak, slicing my fingers in the process. It screeches. She screeches. I screech the loudest. People take pictures. The ungodly strong bastard rips a chunk of flesh from my hand as I pry the ring out of its mouth. Everyone looks on in sheer terror. Blinded by fury, I crush the life out of the damned bird with my bare hands. I try to present my diamond trophy to my wife-to-be in bloodied hands through a cloud of feathers. She finds it oddly romantic. Church bells chime in the distance.
This is one of countless anxiety dreams I had leading up to my actual proposal. In my mind I have dropped the ring off the cliff, I have tripped and fallen off the cliff, and I have tripped, comically stumbled and pushed her off the cliff. I have been struck by lightning. I have fought hurricane-strength weather, swarms of giant bees, and ninjas. But to this day, I see it as a good sign that of all my fears and nightmares, her saying no never crossed my mind. Of that, I was certain.
In the end, the secret to the art of a successful marriage proposal is simply that – knowing.